Opening Up an Original Eichler Home

General / People / Places / March 31, 2015

Architect John Klopf is hanging ten on a wave of midcentury moderns in California.

After graduating with a masters from U.C. Berkeley, he set up his practice in 2001, and renovated and remodeled his first Eichler home in 2002. Since then, his firm has taken on almost 100 Eichlers and other midcentury homes.

“About 2007, we really started to pick up some speed, with a good number each year,” he says. “There was a snowball effect.”

Part of that’s because the firm handles its projects with respect for the original architects and designs. It also understands the spirit of modernism, with its open spaces, natural light and rational, clean lines.

And then there’s the Asian influence. “The original architects who designed the Eichler homes were inspired by the Japanese concept of ‘borrowed landscape,’ and so are we,” he says. “It’s in evidence in traditional Japanese temples and homes, where the wall panels slide open to a raised deck which overlooks a landscaped, enclosed garden.”

That garden space becomes “part of the room” so a smaller interior space feels much larger. With Eichler homes starting out fairly small by 21st-century standards, the ‘borrowed landscape’ helps make living spaces feel expansive though average in size.

Klopf applied the concept successfully in Silicon Valley for clients with a 1,712 square-foot Eichler home that was down at the heels. “It was outdated, with the front painted a dark green,” he says. “The client wanted a more sophisticated, high-end, modern look. They left the layout up to us.”

Working with Arterra Landscape and Flegels Construction, the architects first took on the effects of expansive native soils and rolling floors by placing the structure up on piers. Next, posts inside were removed inside to accommodate two 20-foot Nana Walls that open out to the exterior. Support frames were hidden above, under roofing tiles.

The original kitchen at the rear was moved to the front of the house and opened up to living and dining spaces. At odds over what to do with a fireplace and chimney, both client and architect were satisfied with their landscape architect’s solution of a fire pit opposite a water feature on side yard. So the chimney is history.

Now, the entire home is opened up to natural light and landscape. “The Eichler houses are known for bringing the outside in, and we wanted to push that as far as we could,” he says. “We achieved it by  completely opening up the space so the living area goes from fence to fence  instead of wall to wall.”

Those fences are particularly important for this home. “There’s a wall of glass in the master shower that faces the backyard,” he says,. “It’s an example of the openness they wanted.”

And a 21st-century upgrade to a classic 20th century California home.

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Michael Welton




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